Short listed for the Man Booker Prize 2012.
Malaya, 1949. After a career spent helping to prosecute Japanese war criminals, Yun Ling Teoh - herself the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp - seeks solace among the jungle fringed plantations of Northern Malaya. There she meets the enigmatic Aritomo, an exiled former gardener of the Emperor of Japan. Yun Ling asks Aritomo to create a garden in memory of her sister. But the jungle holds secrets of its own…
©2012 Tan Twan Eng (P)2012 W F Howes Ltd
I have listened to half of this book. I dislike it. It is contrived and unbelievable. The book tries to do too much, and thus does nothing well. The characters do not pull you in; they stay there flat between the pages of the book.
IF you decide you DO want to read it, do not pick the audiobook narrated by Anna Bentinck!!!!! The book is set in three different time periods. This is more confusing in an audiobook than in a paper book. I do NOT like the narration. There are Chinese and Japanese characters. When all but one of them speaks, you will cringe. Ask yourself to mimic a Chinese person trying to speak English. THAT is what you have to listen to here. It may be typically correct, but it is ever so unpleasant.
Oh, and I keep falling asleep as I listen to this book! Some lines are poetic and beautiful, but essentially lulling. I have started over several times, but each time I fall asleep!
Then I got mad, and went back again. But it was so:
1. boring (I HAVE listened to this.)
2. and confusing (Which time period am I in now?)
3. and annoying (Ugh, must I listen to this pigeon-English?)
4. and contrived (Romance, hidden treasure, murder, internment camps, Communist terrorists....)
5. and unbelievable (Central figure, the sole survivor of a Japanese Internment camp, agrees to become an apprentice gardener to a famed Japanese gardener, the gardener of Emperor Hirohito! And the details make it even more unbelievable. She manages to lift huge stones, agrees to remove her gloves that protect her hands that were damaged in the camp so she can feel the e-a-r-t-h..... Yup, not only unbelievable, but melodramatic too. I forgot to mention the serious medical problem.)
So I am stubborn. I cannot just quit this book, can I? I went then to Wikipedia and looked it up. What is ahead of me? OMG, it is not going to get more believable. No, I cannot take this anymore! This book goes back to Audible! I LOVE that Audible lets you return books.
The good things: some pretty lines and a teeny bit taught about Japanese gardens. They ARE truly magnificent. Should I give this book two stars? How can I do that if I absolutely cannot finish it?!
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